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Dominic Killinger

02 Nov 11

Aosta Valley – Why Wouldn’t You?

Dominic Killinger

02 Nov 11

Aosta Valley – Why Wouldn’t You?
Chamonix, Verbier, Zermatt – great names in world skiing. Spectacular scenery, extensive ski areas – but also sometimes accompanying high prices thanks to the curse of the strong Swiss franc in two of the cases, plus crowded slopes and resorts due to their popularity, and in Chamonix’s case – a shaded valley that’s not particularly user-friendly for less experienced skiers.

So what if there were a way to ski in the same area but pay less to enjoy quieter slopes and the same spectacular scenery? Fortunately, there is! Just hop over the border into the Italian Aosta Valley, which lies between these three big name resorts, and stay in one of the Valley’s 30 or so ski centres instead!

The Aosta Valley is an area enjoying a rich culture – which translates into atmospheric resorts full of local character, and features great regional cuisine to enhance your holiday. It also has world-class resorts of its own in the shape of Cervinia, Courmayeur, Monterosa, La Thuile, and Pila, as well as dozens of smaller, unspoilt centres if you prefer an intimate village atmosphere, but still with the larger areas either on your doorstep or just a short hop away.

Among its claims to fame the Aosta Valley or ‘Valle d’Aosta’ is the smallest autonomous region in Italy. The region is spread out along the ridge of the Alps, and includes numerous four-thousanders – the spectacular Mont Blanc (4,810 m), the Matterhorn (4,478 m), Monte Rosa (4,634 m) and the Gran Paradiso (4061 m).
Here are some destination ideas:

Cervinia shares a 350km ski area with Zermatt in Switzerland – but guests staying on the Italian side reach the glacier ski area quickly and pay much less to ski the same runs. Lunch on the Italian side of the ski area is far more affordable and is usually a traditional, regional dish cooked by locals using seasonal ingredients.

Courmayeur on the Italian side of Mont Blanc is currently installing a new 100 million euro lift system including a cable car with revolving cabins to reveal the the stunning scenery. Unlike Chamonix, Courmayeur is a very atmospheric resort where ancient buildings huddle along cobbled streets so that the whole place oozes traditional charm. While there’s plenty of skiing above the village, with about 1000km of runs, you can in any case ski over into Chamonix if you wish, on a shared lift pass.

The giant Monterosa ski area, known as Italy’s 3 Valleys, is one of the world’s largest, and thanks to recent investment in new lifts you can now ski or board without needing to stop for 180km between the resorts of Champoluc and Gressoney, and Gressoney on to Alagna, basing yourself at any of the villages here – Champoluc, Antagnod, Brusson, Gressoney-La-Trinité and Gressoney-Saint-Jean. The skiing extends up to almost 3000 metres and there are spectacular views across the Aosta Valley and Piemonte.

The increasingly popular resort of La Thuile is able to offer its visitors a choice of old or new. There’s the traditional ski village with a dozen small family hotels that has grown out of four old mining villages now merged into one. Then there’s the modern slope-side hotel and apartment block complex in the shape of the giant Planibel, which includes a nursery, swimming pool and discothèque. Visitors choosing to stay in any part of La Thuile can enjoy spectacular views which take in the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Mont Blanc. Like Cervinia, this ski area is one of less than a dozen in the world where you can ski across a national border, and one of only two where you can ski from Italy into France, in this case into La Rosière. The terrain stretches to 150km (93 miles) and is served by 35 lifts, almost half of them chairs.

Pila, located on a natural balcony from which there are great views of Mont Blanc to Gran Paradiso and as far as Monte Rosa, is also one of the most snow sure destinations in the Alps, with the ski area running from 1765m – one of the highest resort bases on the continent, right up to more than 2700m. Pila has a reputation for lively après ski and there is no need for cars once you arrive because you will find ski slopes and services right on your doorstep.

An unusual attraction is that the region’s historic capital, Aosta, 18km away by road, is actually lift-linked directly by an 18 minute gondola ride, giving an expanded choice of dining, shopping and sightseeing opportunities for anyone based in the ski resort.

If you’re looking for a smaller, highly affordable choice how about the Champorcher Valley which has 21km of piste, including a special children’s area, lies well away from the busy tourist trail, and is the closest ski resort in Valle d’Aosta for visitors coming from Turin or Milan. Or Torgnon, with a new quad chairlift last winter, a great terrain park and spectacular views of the Matterhorn.

Wherever you choose in the Aosta Valley – be it an international resort or an intimate village – you’ll benefit from spectacular scenery, great food, and less crowded slopes- all at below average prices and with a warm welcome from the friendly locals. Why wouldn’t you?
Cervinia +39 0166 944311,
Champorcher +39 0125-37124;
Courmayeur +39 0165-842060;
La Thuile +39 349 5829 828;
Monterosa +39 0125-303111;
Pila +39 0165 521055;
Torgnon Tourist Office: +39 0166-540433,

Courmayeur from £495
Enjoy return Swiss quality flights from Heathrow to Geneva, return transfers and four nights bed and breakfast accommodation at the three star Hotel Centrale in Courmayeur from £495. Book through: Ski Solutions, 0207 471 7748, [email protected]

La Thuile for Christmas from £525
Crystal Ski ( offers seven nights at the Planibel Apartments in La Thuile, Italy, including local lift pass and ski/board hire or carriage from £525 for departures for Christmas week on 19 December 2011 from London Gatwick.

Price is based upon four adults sharing and under-occupancy and/or regional flight supplements may apply. The price is subject to change at any time and includes the online booking discount which will only apply to holidays confirmed online before 30 November. Local lift pass and standard ski/board hire or carriage are included in the price.

Cervinia For New Year From £679
Inghams ( is offering catered accommodation at the centrally- located three star Chalet Hotel Dragon, from £679 per person, for eight nights, departing 30 December 2011. Price includes a skiers’ breakfast, afternoon tea, coffee and cakes and a four course dinner including complimentary wines with evening meal, tea/coffee, return flights from Gatwick to Turin and resort transfers. Flights are also available from Birmingham (+£19) and Manchester (+£25).